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© 2003
Center for Black Studies
Updated
Annual Report 2003


Dr. Anna Everett

Director’s Statement

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Advisory Committee/Staff

Annual Report 2002

 Annual Report 2001

Annual Report 2000

Annual Report 1999

    Director's Statement

    Current Mission: In the 2002-03 Academic Year, the UCSB Center for Black Studies embarked upon an ambitious new millennial research agenda and wide-ranging structural reorganization. To meet the urgent and rapidly changing demands of our evolving global economy, new information technologies (IT) and redefined guidelines for higher education in post Affirmative-Action California, the Center has charted a new course that addresses these daunting issues and what they augur for the field of Black Studies. Among the significant changes undertaken to meet these challenges, the Center has: defined a new research focus on media literacy, race and technology matters; restructured its Scholars-in-Residence program; begun an aggressive grant-writing effort; and rededicated resources to community outreach projects and initiatives.

    Our initiatives for 2003-04 began with the exploration and establishment of several academic and research projects. The Center launched the well-received “Food for Thought” colloquium series featuring the current research and scholarship of UCSB faculty (permanent and visiting), independent scholars and students undertaking work in Black Studies. A Black History Month event was organized around the legal research and activism of lawyer and Center Visiting Scholar Adjoa Aiyetoro. The very successful event included a screening and scholarly panel discussion of the controversial 2001 film Barbershop. (See photos.) The Center inaugurated the first Annual Dr. Shirley Kennedy Lecture in honor of our late, beloved colleague’s longstanding support for and service to the Center. Following the Advisory Committee’s recommendation, the Center restructured our faculty development program that historically supported two dissertation fellowships per year. In its place the Center instituted a Visiting Researcher Fellowship program designed to attract established and senior scholars, researchers, artists and activists engaged in innovative and far-reaching work in the fields of Black and African Diaspora Studies that is compatible with the Center’s current race and technology research focus. These timely and integral changes represent the Center’s efforts to position itself at the forefront of Black Studies in this new millennium.

    Also in 2002-03, the Center officially launched its new Race and Technology (RT) research initiative that encompasses scholarship and pedagogy rooted in film and media studies, new media technologies and science studies, and contemporary African Diaspora research. With support from the College of Letters and Sciences, the Executive Vice Chancellor and the Provost, the Center received a substantial grant for our new journal project, Screening Noir. Finally the Center’s conference room was renovated to better accommodate and reflect the space as the primary gathering venue for the Center’s public activities and events. The Center has begun the process for renaming this space the “Shirley Kennedy Conference Room.”

    Clearly, these changes convey the Center’s effort to adapt to contemporary socio-cultural realities and geopolitical developments that profoundly affect peoples of African descent. Through our new research focus on race and digital media technologies the Center aims to update our strategies in the struggle to protect the hard-fought gains in the realm of social justice, economic and political parity waged by the Civil Rights Movement. As African Americans’ (and other minority groups’) opportunities for equal participation in U.S. civil society are systematically eroded and rescinded in the wake of California’s spate of anti-Affirmative Action propositions and legislation, the Center’s historic mission to foster multi-racial understanding, cooperation and educational diversity is more vital than ever. Indeed, the number of alarming post-Civil Rights era “reforms” portend a very discomfiting reality and uncertain future for the field of Black Studies itself. For more than three decades the field has produced a critical mass of highly qualified and influential black professors and other professionals, generated a new paradigm of scholarship, historical knowledge, and trailblazing research across disciplinary lines. However, this stellar past and celebrated track record now rests on an unstable foundation. Organized efforts in California (and other parts of the U.S.) to downsize educational programs and out-source educational opportunities available to African American citizens and other minority communities must be met with equal organizational efforts to retain and extend these basic rights. The Center for Black Studies at UCSB strives to meet these new demands through the production and cultivation of cutting-edge Black Studies research and scholarship, active participation in efforts to recruit, retain and promote black faculty, students and staff.

    The horrors of September 11, 2001 have made it impossible to ignore the necessity for higher education in the U.S. to be a more racially and culturally diverse and reflective of today’s new global societies and economic structures. In addition to the global popularity and circulation of African American popular music culture (especially hip-hop), film and TV personalities, professional athletes, politicians, military leaders, etc., the international appeal of the Black Studies discipline is at an all time high. For example, in 2002-03 the Center hosted a self-funded German ABD fellow, and we established relations with an ABD fellow from Tunisia; both were studying black women’s literature. With the overwhelmingly positive responses to the Center’s new research and programmatic changes, we anticipate even more local and global interest.

    Initial Goals and Purposes
    Since its founding in 1970, The Center for Black Studies has been an integral unit of UCSB’s Office of Research (OR). Presently, the Center does not administer external research grants; however, the procurement of external funding is an essential element in the Center’s new agenda. At the core of the Center’s past and contemporary mandate are innovative steps to promote, encourage and develop research, scholarship and other academic initiatives relevant to Black Studies across disciplinary and generational lines. Over the decades the Center’s interdisciplinary research focus has served and been served by faculty conducting research in Black studies from a diverse range of departments at UCSB including Art Studio, Black Studies, Education, English, Film Studies, History, Religious Studies, Sociology and Women’s Studies. Additionally, the Center continues to build upon its long-standing collaborations with the Multicultural Center, the Women’s Center, the Education Program for Culture Awareness (EPCA) and Arts and Lectures, among others.

    It is important to recall that historically the Center for Black Studies and the Center for Chicano Studies were founded at UCSB in the early 1970s in response to student activism and demands for “more relevant,” “socially engaged,” and multi-cultural educational offerings beyond canonical “Eurocentric” texts and approaches. Then as now, the Center for Black Studies was charged with advancing the diversification of the educational life and culture at the University of California through the production and nurturing of black faculty, the development and institutionalization of black studies, and the wide dissemination of black studies research and scholarship. Another key component of the Center’s charter was the establishment of an active and interactive public mission and community outreach program designed to keep the Center engaged with the day to day activities, initiatives and overall well-being of Santa Barbara county’s black and non-university communities. These tenets have been observed faithfully by the Center and its successive roster of directors and staff.

    From the beginning, the Center’s Faculty Development Program (dissertation fellowships) has been an extremely successful mechanism for the production of outstanding junior faculty members to staff college and university faculties throughout the U.S. in the field of Black Studies. In this capacity, the Center has hosted 2-3 ABD fellows annually as resident scholars and provided each with research and office support, mentoring, teaching opportunities and career development and assistance. This successful program, however, is undergoing a transformation. On the recommendation of the Advisory Committee, the Center has instituted a welcome change that redefines the Faculty Development Program. The ABD Fellows will no longer be hosted by the Center. Instead, ABD fellows will now be housed in the Department of Black Studies, which is consistent with the more cost-effective structure in the Chicano Studies Department wherein ABD Fellows are housed within in the Department and not in the Center. After thirty years, this arrangement enables the Center for Black Studies to benefit from the experience of more senior scholars and researchers who can assist the Center to expand the research portion of its tripartite mission. Also, working with senior scholars is expected to assist the Center’s efforts at external grant procurement in the coming years. AY 2003-04 will inaugurate our new Visiting Researcher Program that offers fellowships to scholars, artists and researchers who have obtained terminal degrees and achieved significant accomplishments in their respective specialties of Black Studies.

    As the Center geared up to implement the new Visiting Scholar program, relinquishing the ABD program was bitter-sweet as the Center hosted its last ABD cohort. The 2002-03 ABD’s in residence at the Center were Jermaine Archer (M.A., UC Riverside), Angie C. Beatty (M.A., U of Michigan), Ingrid Thaler, self-funded (University of Philipps-University Marburg Institute for English and American Studies, in Germany). The ABD fellows dissertation topics are as follows: Archer: “Sentiments of Africa: Slave Narratives of Antebellum America;” Beatty: “Priming ‘Bitch’ Schemas with Violence and Gender- Oppositional Female Rap Lyrics: Effects of Tolerance for Aggression Against Women;” Thaler: ”White Genres and Black Traditions: Reworking of Time in Speculative Fictions by Octavia E. Butler, Jewel Gomez and Nalo Hopkinson.” Each fellow gained important teaching experience via classes taught in the department of Black Studies and the English Department. Through their participation in the 2002 Race and Digital Space 2.0 Conference at USC, Archer and Thaler gained invaluable experience with conference support activities and panel hosting duties.

    ABD's Jermaine Archer, Ingrid Thaler, and Angie Beatty with Director Anna Everett.

    In addition to the three ABD fellows, the Center hosted law professor and Visiting Scholar Adjoa Aiyetoro. Professor Adjoa Aiyetoro, activist counsel and reparations expert was invited to the Center to write an anthology proposal and a follow-up Report both of which were based on the 2002 conference on slavery mandated by the California State Legislature and funded by the University of California Office of the President. The anthology project will draw upon papers and presentations from the conference entitled “The Legacy of Slavery: Unequal Exchange—A Colloquium on the Socio-Economic Legacy of Slavery.” Prof. Aiyetoro completed the Report on the slavery conference and submitted it to the Office of the President. Prof. Aiyetoro also taught a course on slavery and reparations for the Black Studies department and she was a panelist and respondent for the Black History Month Barbershop event. Additionally, Prof. Aiyetoro delivered the keynote address for UCSB’s 2003 Black Graduation ceremony.
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    Not only has the Center contributed significantly to the University’s instructional and research mission through course offerings dealing with issues of race and cultural diversity taught by the ABDs and the Visiting Scholar, scholarly colloquia, Black History Month programming, and undergraduate research opportunities, but the Center also co-sponsored and co-organized the second international conference on race and technology in collaboration with the University of Southern California, and MIT. The conference, Race and Digital Space 2.0, was a major contribution to ongoing public debates about information technology access for individuals and groups at local, state, national and international levels. Moreover, the completed Report on the slavery conference satisfied the State of California’s mandate to study, document and preserve the official record of U.S. businesses that profited from the institution of slavery.

    Significant Trends and New Research Directions
    The Center’s new research focus and concomitant programmatic shift consists, among other things, of a multi-year, interdisciplinary initiative designated as “The Race and Technology Project” (RT). The Center’s RT project is a work in progress, and as such specific contours are not fully articulated. Nonetheless, some key aspects of the project have taken shape including:

    1) the Center’s significant role in organizing and financially supporting the 2002 “Race in Digital Space” conference that convened at the University of Southern California (USC) in October 2002;
    2) the 2002 submission of a Rockefeller grant proposal to support the Center’s RT project. (That we survived the competitive first-round of cuts, but not the award itself, encouraged our efforts to seek other external funding sources.);
    3) The Center has selected two visiting researchers with specialties in new information technologies and Black culture to help in the establishment and implementation of the RT Project.

    Finally, the RT project, under the auspices of the Center, has the potential to make an important intervention into public debates about the need for and viability of universal access to IT (especially after September 11) and to reframe important terms and dimensions of the so-called “digital divide” (both real and imaginary). To this end, our aim is to position the Center as a leading-edge research facility devoted to innovative approaches to the study and practices of race and new media cultural production, both past and present. Plans for the center entail the installation of a modest media lab to serve the IT needs of our constituents; organization of conferences, workshops, symposia, and colloquia dealing with race and new information technologies; analysis of media policy and the publication of research findings, scholarship and other creative works that proceed from the Center’s RT projects and initiatives. Through the RT project, the Center aims to proffer our research and scholarship for the advancement of socially responsible and equitable lT legislation and infrastructures that would level the field for historically excluded and underserved racial, gender, and economic communities, not only locally but globally as well.

    A valuable indication of national and international interest in the Center’s new race and technology initiative came with the unanticipated response to the intentionally modest announcement of our new Visiting Scholar Fellowship. We received applications and inquiries from applicants in Japan, Indonesia, Britain, France and several U.S. states. In the spring of 2003, the Center received numerous applications for our Visiting Researcher Fellowship. For the ensuing 2003-04 Academic Year, the Center selected its inaugural Visiting Scholars, digital media artist William Jones, and computer programmer and information technology/library sciences researcher Jorge Coelho. We eagerly anticipate the enormous contribution these researchers will make to the Center in the coming term. To support the publications expansion, the College of Letters and Science awarded the Center major funding for three years to transform the Screening Noir newsletter that the director founded in 1994 for the African, African-American Caucus of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) into a refereed journal publication

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    Although the Center’s new RT Project is informed by the director’s near-decade-long research into the African diasporic presence in cyberspace, it will continue to build upon and augment the Center’s impressive record of prior achievements under previous director Dr. Claudine Michel. For example, as the Center works to upgrade its research profile, it will safeguard the excellence of the Center’s historic and ongoing Visiting Scholar/Researcher Program, Community and Public Service functions, Academic Programs, and scholarly publications. In particular, the Center is committed to maintaining and expanding prior Center projects such as the Journal of Haitian Studies; KOSANBA, the Indigenous Religion Project; and the 30 Years of Ethnic Studies Project, which includes developing the first UC based Journal of Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Class. These are remarkable and successful initiatives established by Dr. Michel. (For detailed descriptions of these projects, see past annual reports.)

    Overall, the Center’s new vision and programmatic agenda naturally build upon an impressive past while developing plausible but ambitious augmentations for the future that, again, extend from the director’s current research, scholarship and pedagogical interests in the intersection of race and new media technologies. Moreover, the director has been working diligently to draw upon a range of resources available within a number of UCSB organized research units and other fitting campus-wide academic programs and entities. More specifically, the plan for placing the Center in the forefront of race and technology studies during the 2002-03 (AY) remains involved the following:

    1. Developing collaborative media-based symposia and co-sponsored faculty and student events with the Center for Chicano Studies, Asian American Studies and the new Center for Film, TV and New Media (organized by Film and Communication Studies)
    2. Establishing closer ties and coordinating Center activities with the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center (IHC), the Institute for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research (ISBER), the Digital Media Innovation Program (DIMI), and the Center for Information Technology and Society (CITS)
    3. Instituting a research project devoted the study of race and technology (the long-term goal here is to establish an Institute for Race and Technology with external funding that could have national and international policy implications and impact)
    4. The transformation of the five-year-old SCMS (Society for Cinema and Media Studies) Screening Noir newsletter into a self-sustaining, refereed journal that operates under the auspices of the Center
    5. Reestablishment of the Black Faculty and Staff Meetings that, unfortunately, have been discontinued in recent years
    6. Create an externally funded Student Research Initiative (SRI) featuring the work of black undergraduate and graduate students across the disciplines
    7. Establishing a small but dedicated Media Center for race and technology projects
    8. Working aggressively on grant procurements for the Center

The ambitious nature of this new research shift, especially the establishment of the Race and Technology Project (RT) is understood. However, we at the Center are convinced that these goals are achievable and fundable with sound planning, and continued institutional support in these areas. Excluding the potentially costly (but crucial) Race and Technology initiative and media lab, we have no doubts about the feasibility of implementing these projects and more with the efficient management of the Center’s existing resources, and opportunities for the cultivation and development of other funding sources.

     

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